Braddock Statue Unveiled

By Robert Ecksel on September 27, 2018
Braddock Statue Unveiled
“In Hudson County, we had a tough Irish kid.” (Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal)

Known as the “Bulldog of Bergen,” Braddock defeated Max Baer in 1935 and was rechristened the “Cinderella Man” …

Going back in time to “Boxer at Rest,” the iconic bronze with inlaid copper dating from 330 to 50 BCE which depicts a world-weary gladiator in repose, statues of boxers have adorned the boxing landscape for centuries, often in the towns in which they were born.

There’s a statue of Jack Johnson in Galveston, Texas. There’s a Larry Holmes in Easton, Pennsylvania. Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Joey Giardello both have statues in Philadelphia.

There’s a fine-looking “Manos de Piedra” in Panama. There’s a statue of Bob Fitzsimmons in New Zealand. Gothenburg, Sweden, is home to a golden likeness of Ingemar Johansson. And “Monument to Joe Louis” (also known as “The Fist”) is as integral to Detroit history as Belle Isle or Motown Records.

Former heavyweight champion of the world James J. Braddock (47-24-4. 27 KOs), the “Cinderella Man” from New Jersey, again put North Bergen on the map.

Known as the “Bulldog of Bergen” before he defeated Max Baer in 1935 and was rechristened the “Cinderella Man,” Braddock was a 10-to-1 underdog in the fight going in and an inspiration to wild-eyed dreamers everywhere.

Hudson County honored Braddock in a ceremony yesterday by unveiling a 10-foot statue in James J. Braddock North Hudson County Park.

“Heavyweight champs are some of the most popular and well-known people in the world,” said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise. “Whether it was Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Mike Tyson, [or] Muhammad Ali… Here in Hudson County, we had a tough SOB Irish kid who belongs up there with all of them, and we are so proud that he achieved that.

“[It shows that] humble beginnings don’t predict how you’re gonna turn out in life.”

“When my father Howard was alive, I asked him, “What was it like growing up with a celebrity?” said Jimmy Braddock, the one-time champ’s grandson. “His reply: ‘He was a very quiet man.” It was my grandfather’s actions and the way he led his life that are his legacy.”

State of Fitness Boxing Gym is a few blocks from the statue. The gym’s owner, Desmond Boyle, may be Braddock’s biggest fan.

“His story is representative of the Irish immigrants back then,” said Doyle, “but it also applies to immigrants now. With North Bergen being a home to so many immigrants, his story of struggle to attain the American Dream is universal.”

Statues of this sort often leave something to be desired and nothing to the imagination; but not this time.

“I think the idea of having a sculpture of a man who fought to improve his condition … it could be considered a metaphor,” said the Philadelphia-based sculptor Zenos Frudakis.

“This sculpture is for the family and all of the boxers that are here, but it’s also for all of us that are fighters. We’re all fighters in life and I think he’ll be an inspiration for many, many years to all of us.”

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James J Braddock Fights Max Baer Heavyweight Championship

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  1. Buster 08:36pm, 10/02/2018

    For years a statue of the great Joe Gans adorned the old Madison Square Garden. Have no idea what happened to it. And there is a wonderful statue of Tony DeMarco in Boston.

  2. Pootie Tang 05:58am, 09/30/2018

    Lucas McCain… hahaha. I hear ya. The sculptor might have exaggerated Chuck’s physique just a tad. The face looked like Chuck but the physique was more Mike Weaver.

  3. Lucas McCain 09:57am, 09/29/2018

    P.S.  Here’s a local report on the Wepner art I mentioned

  4. Lucas McCain 09:55am, 09/29/2018

    Sculpture fans might also google the Chuck Wepner statue in NJ.  The physique is a bit idealized, but the face is wonderfully battered and tough.  Well done.

  5. Bruce 03:01pm, 09/28/2018

    We have a brilliant statute of Stanley Ketchel here in Grand Rapids, Michigan so I am spoiled, but I don’t think the Cinderella Man’s likeness is half bad.

  6. Pootie Tang 07:58am, 09/28/2018

    Hmm, me thinks the statue doesn’t resemble Mr. Braddock that much but it is nice to see the man honored.

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